Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Combine your choice milk and lemon juice in a measuring jug and leave to stand while you get on with the recipe. The milk will likely curdle a little, that’s totally what we are after!
Add the 3/4 of the flour, the sugar, baking powder and salt to a mixing bowl and stir together to aerate the dry ingredients. Hold some of the flour back and add it gradually if the dough is too sticky to work with.
Rub in cold butter or vegan block, until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
Add the soured milk and stir so that flour is moistened. The dough will be shaggy and very sticky.
Add the raisins, if using, and gradually add enough flour until that the bread is not too sticky when mixing with your hands. We want the dough to be on the wet side though.
Sprinkle flour on your worktop and flour your hands. Gently knead the dough, adding more flour if it is still very sticky. Don’t overwork it – use a very light touch otherwise the bread will tough.
Quickly shape the dough into a round loaf and score a deep cross using a sharp knife. This helps the bread rise and also “let’s the fairies out” according to Irish lore.
Place the loaf on a skillet or baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, until the bread is well risen with a golden crust. The bread should sound hollow if you tap the underside.
Leave the bread to cool on a wire rack before slicing or simply splitting and tucking in!
Spice it up: Add a pinch of ground cinnamon or mixed spice. Caraway seeds would be a fabulous addition in this slightly sweet raisin soda bread.
Get creative with the flours! You can use a mix of all purpose flour and wholemeal flour if you like. Bread flour is not ideal as it can make the bread a bit tough.
Hate raisins? Leave them out or replace them with dried cranberries, chopped dates or mixed citrus peel.
Make gluten-free Irish soda bread: use your favourite GF flour and one teaspoon of Xanthan Gum (leave out if the flour is already enriched with it) in addition to the remaining ingredients.